Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Stripping of the Altars

This, from a decidedly stroppy, Captain Deltic...

According to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, at the launch of the GWML modernisation programme on 14 July:

‘This is another fantastic step on the journey of renaissance which the railway is taking.

'Nobody would have believed 20 years ago that we would be building new railway lines, refurbishing our rail infrastructure, electrifying hundreds of miles of additional track, seeing passenger numbers double and passenger satisfaction improving dramatically.

'This is literally a new age of the train in Britain and a very exciting one too’.

Er, 20 years ago, that's 1991.

So presumably our expectations would have been more-of-the-same based on the previous decade:

  • With 900 route miles electrified by 1991 we would have been expecting more routes under the wires in future.
  • With passenger miles up by a quarter to the highest levels since 1949 we would have been expecting more growth.
  • With Network SouthEast starting total route modernisation we would have expected more refurbishment.
  • In 1991 new trains were rolling out of York, Derby and Washwood Heath. Whither those centres of excellence now? (Or should that be 'wither'.)
  • The Crossrail Bill had just been submitted so we were expecting new lines and overcrowding in the South East to be addressed.
What we didn't expect was a dire recession, as a consequence of economic mismanagement.

What we didn't expect was a botched privatisation which multiplied the railway's subsidy fivefold.

What we didn't expect was a stop start rolling stock procurement that saw a period of 1064 days without a new train order and the current hiatus at 838 days and counting...

What we didn't expect was the Civil Service specifying a replacement for the HST

And we most certainly didn't expect McNulty to have to remind a once integrated industry to work together for the good of the passenger.

I'm inured to politicians claiming daft self-serving things, but we can't let them airbrush out the past in their attempt to turn a pig's ear into a brushed polyester purse.

So renaissance? Well, yes, so long as we don't forget that it followed some very dark, dark ages.